Archive for November, 2010

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Gap year review; Neil’s volunteer experience in Fiji

neil's gap year meke in Fiji
Finally in the last week I get around to writing my very first blog.  I apologise to anyone who may have been waiting for one from me, but here it is finally!!

Well, the last 7 weeks in the village have completely flown by; I can’t believe we leave the village at the end of this week already.  I must admit I was a little bit daunted about entering the village, excited but daunted, not entirely knowing what to expect. 

However village life has been easy to settle in to and one aspect that I will always remember will be how friendly this place is, not only the village but the entirety of Fiji. 

My family is with the mata ni vanua, Saki (my Fijian brother, who is always one to make me laugh), his father, Mary (my Fijian sister, who with some of the most basic cooking implements is able to make the best food I’ve ever tasted!!) and her daughter Moa (who always has a smile on her face). 

I have spent a majority of time working on the build, something that I enjoyed as I have been able to see it go from 30 something holes in the ground, to a near completed building.  All lead by the big man himself, Jack, who’s laid back approach the build is almost deceptive with his ability to fix our mistakes. 

I also spent a week teaching in school and a week in Kindi and I must admit I would have liked to spend more time in them as well however the project is only 8 weeks long and my experiences from them I will remember for a life time.

Away from the project side of the expedition, we have had some amazing expedition trips, snorkelling with sharks and turtles, trekking in Ruku Ruku to see an absolutely outstanding view, spending an afternoon in a rock pool, day trips to Levuka and Rugby against other Fijian villages. 

gap year fiji_neilRugby in Fiji is something of an experience, as at times it tends to become more like American football than rugby with the forward passes.  However it is easy to understand why the Fijians are so good at open play rugby, their natural ability is outstanding, from 6 year old children in class 1 tackling better than some 15 year olds in England, and 13 year olds in class 8 with handling skills as good as some professionals. 

From a PE teacher’s view their natural sporting ability is unbelievable and it is a shame there is so little structure within the school PE systems as so many talented youngsters will unfortunately slip through the net and not get the opportunities that they so deserve.  Playing rugby with the Fijians from the village against Savuna and Navuti were amazing opportunities, and extremely enjoyable to be part of.

I really can’t believe that our time in the village is almost over, no more hop-hop, no more grog (which definitely looks just like muddy water), this have been the most amazing experience of my life and something that I am so grateful to of been part of! 

For all those who have been waiting for a blog from me, I apologise its only short, but there’s been that many great experiences that I couldn’t get them all in to this, I am sure I will do another one before the end of this absolutely unforgettable experience.

Neil Best.

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Gap year Fiji; Final week and the team depart Uluibau village

Here is the round up of the final week on the Fiji gap year project and then our gap team say their farewell to Uluibau village;

 gap year fiji rugby gap year fiji rugby, Rob's gap year

Wednesday 17th November –

After a morning spent relaxing in the village, the team made their way across the island to MDS for the rugby and netball fixtures against Navuti village. Once again the tp gap team were well represented for the final fixture of the expedition, with Tim, Rob, Ali and Neil all getting game time, as well as expedition leaders Tom and Harry. Despite being wet under foot very quickly the standard of rugby being played was great. Navuti were causing some problems but as they looked to attack the ball was dropped. It then became a foot race between Neill and the Navuti back line, and the chance came for Neil to show his pace as he raced past, collected the ball on the bounce and ran in for the first try of the game, and a 5-0 lead for our boys. The intensity of the game continued to be very high, and the Navuti finally got rewards for their efforts, taking a 12-10 lead with just a few minutes to play. Rob showed courage in stepping up to take a penalty kick, and under huge pressure from the Navuti boys, who seemed unaware that you are not allowed to yell and move when someone is taking a penalty kick, pushed the kick just wide of the right hand post. As a finale to a game it was pretty epic, and despite being on the wrong side of the result once again, the boys all took allot of pride from the performance, and thoroughly enjoyed the last chance to play together as a squad!

The netball proved a relaxed affair, and despite taking an early lead in the first quarter it is fair to say that the Uluibau team then looked to play for enjoyment rather than the victory, and when the final whistle blew it was the Navuti ladies who were celebrating. After showers and changing into sulus, bula shorts and jaba dresses the team headed for the Navuti community hall for tea. And then it was party time, and for those who may have never visited Navuti, they like to party hard! The grog was flowing quickly, the band were singing an awesome selection of Fijian and English “hop hop” classics, and the team and village were all up on their feet having a boogy and enjoying the fun!

gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (2) gap year fiji week 8

Thursday 18th November –

After a big day yesterday this morning the gap team enjoyed a relaxed few hours in the shed making bilos, the half coconut shells that you drink kava from. As ever it was a labour of love, with lots of sanding to be done to make it the smooth finish. A couple also cut up extra coconuts to make bracelets, which make lovely souvenirs and gifts! In the afternoon the team relaxed around the village after a busy day yesterday, and in the evening it was once again party time. Thom shall celebrate his birthday in Pacific Harbour during the 10 day adventure stage of the expedition; however his Fijian family were extremely keen for his to have a Fijian birthday to remember.

gap year fiji week 8 - thom's birthday party (2) gap year fiji week 8 - thom's birthday party (4)

Thom was dressed in the traditional masi, and the feast prepared was something special. There was also a cake that the family had bought especially for the celebration. Before dinner Thom’s Fijian mum made a speech that was very moving, and throughout the night you could see just how incredibly close he had become to the family. After a dinner there were a few quiet bowls of grog to enjoy whilst the team sang a few songs.

gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (30) gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (5)

Friday 19th November –

This morning the boys and girls practiced their mekes ready for the big day tomorrow, whilst Millie, Naomi and Rose headed out fishing with Milli’e family, bringing home 16 fish! After lunch there was singing practice for the Fijian hymn that we shall be singing during the final Sabbath service, and then it was “TP Olympics” time. The TP Olympics are always the most anticipated sporting event of the year, and with the races including the “battery&spoon” race, the sack race, the wheelbarrow race, the three legged race and a relay there was huge excitement in the air! As ever the races produced some moments of comedy genius, with Emma’s attempt in the sack race a particular highlight. With the races completed the scores were tied at 3-3, and it went down to a decider, chosen by Raymond von Barneveld who sadly couldn’t compete due to injury. RVB chose for it to be a crawling race to find our champions, and ultimately it was the team of Neil, Hannah, Emma, Tim, Jessie, Richard and Will who held the pack of oreos aloft! Allot of the team then gathered to watch the England vs Australia rugby 15s match which was being shown in one of the houses, whilst others finished off mats and fans that they were weaving. And in the evening it was juice party time, as the team through a party for the kids in the village. With a playlist made of some Fiji classics including Shakira, Justin Bieber and more, the kids and team had an absolute blast together, an evening that shows just what project life is all about!

gap year fiji week 8 - fun day - opening of hall. (5) gap year fiji week 8 - fun day - opening of hall. (2) 

Saturday 20th November –

Today was a huge day for the gap team, and Uluibau community, as we looked forward to the official opening of the community hall and village “fun day”. With the sun shining the stalls were set up, and after a slow start the kids arrived in their numbers to take part and have some fun. The stalls included face painting, coconut shy, pin the nose on the elephant, “shape box challenge”, and fun races, as well as a refreshments stall selling juice, popcorn, mango skins and lollies. Ali and Hannah were also busy selling raffle tickets for the Think Pacific sulus, and the village ladies were preparing the feast for lunch.

gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (6) gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (7)

The morning also saw the arrival of our local partners from Suva, including Waliki, the assistant rook for the Lomaiviti Council, Peceli, head of the National Centre for Health Promotion, Seruwaia Beci and her team from the Ministry of Health, and Ponipate, Roko for the Ministry of Fijian Affairs. With all of our projects entirely guided and monitored by these government ministries and bodies, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support, and it was great to welcome them onto Moturiki! With their arrival came the ceremony for the opening of the community hall, which saw the Vakatawa make a speech to the team and village before moving to the hall to cut the ribbon and welcome everyone inside. We then made our way back to the village green where lunch was served by the ladies and a soli given, and then the grog began as the school children and team prepared for the mekes.

gap year fiji week 8 - fun day - tp girls meke. (5) gap year fiji week 8 - fun day - tp girls meke. (3)

The kids went first and were superb, with the girls performing a meke, classes 1&2 and 3&4 doing a dance and the boys performing a spear meke. And then it was the turn of the gap team, with the Tp girls up first and doing extremely well. And then the boys were up, performing their sitting down meke, which brought huge woops and excitement from the crowd, before they themselves performed a spear meke. With the mekes such an intrinsic part of Fijian culture it was an extremely memorable opportunity and experience for the team, and one that I am sure they will never forget!

gap year fiji week 8 - fun day - tp boys meke (5) gap year fiji week 8 - fun day - tp boys meke

The gap team and crowd then made their way back into the community hall, with speeches from Harry on behalf of Think Pacific, Waliki on behalf of the Lomaiviti Provincial Council, and an elder from the chiefly matagali on behalf of the village. Thom and Zoe also shared a few of their thoughts and feelings on their experiences during their time in Uluibau. Specially designed and printed sulus were presented to the team, a special reminder of their time in the community. And then the grog party swung into action, as the guitars were played and the team and visitors quickly up onto their feet to “hop hop”. With the partners leaving after 5pm to mark the end of the fun day celebrations there was time to reflect on a great occasion, and one which raised $416.45 for Uluibau village!

gap year fiji week 8 - kids juice party (7) gap year fiji week 8 - kids juice party (3)

Sunday 21st November –

This morning the team attended the final Sabbath service with Uluibau village, singing a Fijian hymn to mark the occasion. The Ratu said a word of thanks on behalf of the community, before Thom, Hannah, Will and Richard said a piece composed by the whole team to share their heart felt feelings of appreciation and gratitude for their time here on Moturiki. The afternoon was then spent packing up before we gathered together in the evening for dinner, with the families, kids and team all there and with the team all showing off their Uuibau sulus for the last night! Feasts in Fiji are always remarkable, and this one was no different, with an unbelievable selection of foods. We then headed to the community hall where the grog began, with our mata ni vanua presenting the tatau on our behalf. With it being Sabbath there was no “hop hop” until after midnight, which gave a fantastic time for the team and their families to sit and tell stories together. Alistair, Thom, Richard and Will also took the time to serve the grog to the Ratu, village elders and those in the hall, and they impressed all those around them with their knowledge and respect of the local customs. Ray also put in an unbelievably quick time in drinking the largest grog bowl in the building!

gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (22) gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (1)

And as the clock ticked twelve the party really kicked off, with the guitars out giving one last chance to dance the night away. As has become tradition the grog party went until morning, with Ray and Tim the survivors and many more staying until the very early hours..the grog even made its way to the beach as everyone gathered to say their goodbyes. It was then time to load up onto the boats, a time that no blog or diary will ever be able to truly describe. In such a short space of time the team and families become so close, and it was an extremely emotional goodbye for the entire team and village community. As they sang isa isa and waved us off from the beach I knew that the team will always have their home in the small village of Uluibau, and to the community I would like to say a big Vinaka vaka levu, Think Pacific September 2010 gap year team shall forever remember you!

gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (32) gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (28)

gap year fiji week 8 - last day. (34)

Monday 22nd November –

After the long grog party and sad goodbyes the day on Caqalai was extremely relaxed as the team went for a swim, read their books and sat and reflected on the 8 weeks gone by and prepare for their ten day island safari ahead.

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Fijian Weddings, Swimming with Reef Sharks & Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat!

gap year fiji snorkelling excursion Joseph play on a Fiji gap year

This whole week has been unique. Attending a  Fijian wedding in Nubsaga was a pleasure to behold and snorkelling in Levuka, seeing Turtles and following a Reef Shark along the coral with Ali and Millie, somersaulting off the boat (and even though I never got it right and always landed on my back, I conquered my fear!), and then a fried breakfast! Writing messages to everyone on the internet was amazing and I miss you all loads!

The next day we sung in Church and then Will and I walked to Daku with our family to celebrate the 100 Nights of his Grandad’s death. We then witnessed a Christening and finished off the day with a grog session and didn’t get to sleep until 1.30am! On Tuesday we celebrated in big style Ali’s Birthday and then on Thursday Harry, Thom Tim and I saw the funeral of the Dad of a much loved rugby player of Uluibau. The grog, service, burial and then eating plates on the boat on the way back was a unique experience and well worthwhile.

Then came Friday and what I haven’t mentioned about Friday is one of the main reasons why I came here- ‘Joseph and The Technicolour Dreamcoat’. The kids did extremely well with it being their first time performing something like that in front of an audience outside. The singing of the songs was pretty good, especially ‘Any Dream Will Do’ and the acting went well! It was fantastic to see something that was vaguely mentioned in a phone call to Simon months and months ago come to life.

Master Joe’s speech (and tears) afterwards just demonstrated to all of us how much our efforts in the school had meant to him. So, in a week and a half, I have been to a wedding, funeral, 3 birthday parties, a 100 Nights Celebration, a Christening, 2 Church services, a rugby match, a kava and Hop Hop evening in another village, and I have received a gift from my family and another family in Daku. Beat that if you can, and if you don’t think you can, come to Fiji! I promise I have done quite a lot of painting as well! Sarah and I built an epic fire for the spare bits of wood and I attempted to paint the flasher boards on a roof which was about 100 degrees!

Added to the fact that this week our Quiz Team won (again!) and I watched Men in Black for the first time on Movie Night, this week is one of those weeks that just won’t happen again and cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. It’s been epic, and I have truly lived the dream. I now feel like this is my home and I know that when it comes to Monday morning, it is going to be very emotional leaving my family and the village


Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Project development: Uluibau community centre completed!

week 7 & 8 - build. (26)

On the building project this week, the team have been working away as they hit the home straight! The inside walling was completed and touch-ups made to the window frames. The skirting was also finished with the light blue, and with the rain stopping by mid-morning we had the green light to paint the steps and get the team up on the roof to do the frascia boards, flashings and the roof itself. With a big last push and real team effort the painting was finished and the build completed on time. An absolutely huge achievement by the team and something that we can all feel extremely proud of!

To mark the end of the building project, the Ratu (village chief) requested a Think Pacific logo to adorn the wall of the community centre. Rose’ design was chosen to represent the September 2010 gap year team and Rose had been busy paining her logo onto the community hall wall as a symbol of the achievements of the team and community.

After lunch the team were back on site to clear the area ready for the fun day and opening ceremony. By the afternoon we were able to relax inside and take a moment to reflect on the last 7 weeks of hard work and laughter. The hall that now stands proud is testament to the teams efforts, it’s been an unbelievable build and the official opening on Saturday should be a day to remember for the entire village and island community!

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Gap year Fiji; Will’s final week in Uluibau village

Will gap year fiji

It’s the start of week 8, and we’re well into the end-game. In my last blog update, I said it was all change on Moturiki, and over the last few weeks, it certainly has done. But now, with the weeks fast disappearing behind me, and only one left to go, I worry that before I know it I’ll be back in England, sat on my sofa wondering where the last 3 weeks went.

And it’s only now that I’ve got so little time left in Uluibau with my family that I’ve truly started to appreciate what we’ve done over the past few weeks, be it on the build, in school, at kindi, or just in the village. Last Friday, we performed Joseph in front of classes 1 & 2 in front of the whole school, and the teachers. After rehearsing since Week 3, it was incredible to see them performing. Singing, like most things, is something Fijians seem to naturally excel at, and classes 5, 6, 7 &8 did exceptionally, singing 6 songs from the musical, and finishing on “Any Dream Will Do”. Naturally, the kids were nervous, so didn’t sing as loudly as in rehearsal, but they were still amazing. After the finale, Master Joe gave a thank-you speech. He started off in faltering English, with long pauses between sentences. Not particularly concentrating, I thought he was either having trouble with his English, or didn’t know what to say. He’d never really seemed to take an interest in what we were doing; he’d mostly spent his time building furniture during my week in school, and I assumed he was just struggling to ad-lib a thank you speech. But then I saw his face, and realised just how wrong I was. He was utterly choked up with emotion; a solitary tear ran down his cheek, despite his best efforts to blink them back. He struggled to keep his voice steady as how told us just how grateful he was for our efforts, and how he wished there was some way he could repay us, but seeing how much he’d appreciated our efforts was repayment enough.

gap year fiji_mekeThe previous Monday, we’d had a similar end-of-project presentation for kindi. I was on the final kindi team, so after a sevu-sevu, we performed two mekes (traditional Fijian dances) with the kids. We’d only had a week to teach them, but they did really well, nervous though they were. The kids who were moving onto the 1st year of school got dressed up in mortar boards, and had a graduation ceremony, which was really cute. After the ceremony, when kava started going round, I headed out of the hall into the kindi room, to mess about with the kids. They were still dressed up in their meke gear, wearing salusalus (flower garlands), and were immensely cute, hyped up by their performance. I took the opportunity to take some photos, and whilst doing so, realised how much I’d miss the kids, especially Ana, my 4-year old neighbour and possibly the cutest child alive.

And on the build, we’ve finally finished! The final touches have been made, small errors corrected, and it stopped raining long enough for us to finally finish the roof. Having been on the build on the first week, digging the first holes for the foundations, it was absolutely incredible. I took my final Photo-A-Day, of the finished article, and felt genuinely proud of what we’d done.

But whilst the projects are now finished, what’s to come may be just as memorable; the family week. I’ve taken time off weaving a mat and a basket to write this blog, and I’ll be cooking when I get back. From fishing to plantation trips, the week to come is about spending as much quality time with your family as possible, getting a final taste of the Fijian lifestyle before we have to leave on Monday. And though I’m really looking forward to the adventure phase, I’m certain it’ll be a tearful goodbye. I’ve spent so much time with my family, Save, Kara, Loata, and Samu, that it will be truly heartbreaking to leave. I’ll definitely keep in contact (I’ve promised to send back some of the photos on my digital camera) but I’m not sure if it’ll ever be feasible for me to come back to Uluibau.

It seems like we only arrived yesterday, and now that I’ve settled, I feel like it’s my village. The days in kindi, saying to the kids “My name is Will, I am 18 years old, and I am from Uluibau” have enforced the sense that I’m leaving home. And I’ll leave with memories and skills that won’t ever leave me. It’s been a phenomenal 8 weeks on project, better than I could ever have imagined. I know I’ll be back in England far too soon, sat at home before I know it, but I know that I’ll return a better person, with experiences under my belt that few people in the world are lucky enough to have.

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Gap year reviews; Richard’s Birthday Blog!

Richard blog pic 1

This week has been utterly epic, experiencing it seems like every possible Fijian ceremony and attempting to make the painting as fun as possible. The last two days for me has been very special. I would recommend any volunteer to spend their birthday in Fiji, and here’s why……………….

I decided to have my party the night before my actual birthday because that day we would be in Nasavuki playing rugby and also my Dad’s birthday was on Thursday so we decided to celebrate together! I got him a Bula shirt as a present and he gladly wore it at the party. Preparing for the party was a lot of fun as we extended our existing shed outside our house to make room for Hop Hop and eating. Filling the crab holes was a necessity for allowing dancing to be safe while Will and I trekked with our Dad to get the party food (Kasava and the Dalo). We also saw our pig for the party being dragged from the farm (they don’t have animal protection stuff in Fiji, just if you were wondering) which turned out to be absolutely delicious! With the mats down and the decorations up I went to play touch rugby when I found out that my family actually DID plan to start of 5pm. Now, when a Fijian family say a certain time, you usually add about an hour at the least to get the rough start time. Not this time. Will and I rushed to get our bark dresses on and went topless with a very uncomfortable but decorative flower necklace. It did look a little bit like a gay Fijian wedding when the pictures were taken! But that would be highly inappropriate, so we move on.

I had prepared a speech in Fijian with the help of my family to welcome which I was particularly proud of, followed by everyone singing Happy Birthday and Happy Long life to me, and finally a prayer from the vicar. Kana! The food was delicious as usual and then once everyone had finished eating the guitarists and singers gathered around the kava bowl and the best part of the evening  was about to start….the grog and the Hop Hop! I was honoured to drink the first bowl of each round as the Birthday boy with the other volunteers kindly passing round the grog, and it was amazing to hear the Fijians sing Happy Birthday and Happy Long life to me while dancing. The women came and got the lads up and as the night came the atmosphere of a Fijian kava evening really set in.

It was special to be a part of, just sitting there enjoying the unique experience of soaking up the atmosphere and chatting to the people next to me and occasionally dancing with a Fijian lady and drinking a bowl (Sinai please!) of grog! I much enjoyed Harry’s epically long Happy Birthday hug before we discussed the Birthday plans for the next day. All my favourite Fijian songs were played including the ‘stop starty’ one in which we always enjoy playing musical statues! The party was awesome yet chilled at the same time, something which I think suited the energy levels of the TP crew at the time after 7 weeks of volunteer work, me included!

week 7 - richards birthday. (1)With the match the next day and people feeling tired the crew dispersed slowly one by one until it was just myself and Millie left (I knew you would keep your promise!), but eventually, it was just me. I decided to get as much out of this night as possible and I must have sat there for about an hour past midnight in front of the kava bowl while the Fijian lads stayed up and played and sang just for me in the night time. They sand Happy Birthday to me once again when the clock struck midnight (now that it was my actually Birthday..well in Fiji, not in England!) which was a wonderful experience.

I then thought it would be nice to just have a walk around the village on my own, in which I discovered that the village had visitors from another village in the other shed, so I was invited to join them and gladly accepted! Having not drunk kava for an hour or so I thought it wouldn’t harm to have a few more to be polite, and so I did and the women seemed more than enthusiastic to dance with the birthday boy! So there was a Fijian lady and I dancing and about 50 other people sitting watching! After a bit I felt my mind going and so I decided to maybe call it a day, but before that I just lay in the middle of the playing fields and watched the stars disperse outside of my eye line. It was a surreal experience and something that could only have been that special there and then. However much I was telling myself to take a TP man up pill and stay up, my party had packed up and I couldn’t face much more grog and Hop Hop so I fell asleep in my bed a very happy man!

Now, onto the next day, and it gets better!!! Now it being my actual birthday the volunteers could actually just sing and shout across the playing fields as I went to the leaders’ house HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YA, HAPPY BIRTH-DAY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YA! I never got tired of it! After another famous Harry Hunter hug we discussed…….here it comes…….the Happy Birthday rugby move, to be done in the last 5 minutes of the match with myself coming on for a little cameo on the wing!

We decided that it would be a cross field kick from Rob for Harry and I to chase down! I was dead excited, although having not tackled a person on rugby for 2 years I was also a little apprehensive about the contact side of it, but it had to be done on my birthday! Although I do confess I had to be encouraged a little during the week! Anyway, after Harry presented to me a Sulu with Happy Birthday wishes from the whole team (apart from Ellie and the Big Guy, who have sadly with lots of tears had to leave the expedition for varying reasons) which was fantastic, followed by the inevitable lads group hug! I love it! The walk down in the rain was great but the match was even better! A game played in great spirit saw a close game narrowly won by Nasavuki.

week 7 - richards birthday. (2)It’s just a shame that my move and presence didn’t result in a try, but I did have the time of my life when I jogged on to the pitch with all the spectators singing Happy Birthday and then running around trying to look like I knew what I was doing in a Fijian guy’s rugby boots which had no grip. The rain came pouring down as the ball came out to my opposite number, and needless to say, he dodged past me, but I still managed to get out the attempted diving tap tackle! Then we got the ball and the move was called…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!  

Rob kicked the ball as high as he could to the full back as Harry and I ran as fast we could towards it. The Fijian guy caught it and kicked it off, myself diving to block it in vain, and there the whistle was called. This signalled a fantastic chain of events. Harry and I hugged it out again and, as is traditional in Fiji, both teams huddled together and sung “I know the Lord”, a beautiful Fijian song which, with the rain still pouring and everyone soaking and muddy and exhausted, was a pleasure to be part of. Handshakes all round with the team, I walked back to the song of (yes you guessed it!). As I was standing by the steps contemplating what had just happened, before I knew it I had been picked up by all the lads and chucked into the biggest puddle they could find and bundled on! Thanks lads! Then some people started to skid through the muddy water, so I thought I’d join in! Now extremely muddy I got a mini bucket shower from someone’s water bottle and went to have a much needed shower.

I still have the best part to tell you! We got to the community hall and ate cakes and biscuits as our supper and then chilled for a while. Once the Sevu Sevu was over I thought the whole Birthday thing had got a bit boring for everyone and that it was going to be a fairly standard Fijian kava and Hop Hop evening. Mmmm…that didn’t happen!  About half way through things had been fairly standard until suddenly the whole hall went silent and the spokesperson was saying a speech and I vaguely heard my name mentioned. At this point I kept my head down a bit before Harry beckoned my to come and sit at the front of the hall at the front of the kava bowl (that’s the Chief’s position!) and be granted the first bowl of each round of Kava. When I had finished drinking my bowl they all shouted in synchronisation “AU MACA!” (it’s emptied) which was an incredible sound to behold. When I first got to my new place to sit a Fijian lady grabbed me to dance immediately and, once again, it was just her and I and all the others watching as the band played Happy Birthday and Happy Long life.  We danced the congo with me leading the moves (“LIVING THE DREAM!”). Another great moment was taking a leak on the coast wall with the view of all the islands in front of me…..surreal experience! I was desperate not to leave but it was time to walk back. By the middle of the walk I was tired, hungry and grogged up, so bed was a nice prospect! I fell asleep a happy man, once again. I thought to myself….”this is too good to be true”.

Thank you everyone for 2 days I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever forget. You guys made it very, very special!